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Charismatic discipleship: a Sufi woman and the divine mission of development in Senegal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 October 2017


Midwife Rokhaya Thiam joined the Fayḍa Tijāniyya Sufi Islamic movement in 2005 and soon became aware of her divine mission to found the Association Mame Astou Diankha. This organization provides free medical services to needy people and organizes economic development projects for women. Rokhaya Thiam exemplifies a broader trend of ‘hybrid’ religious subjects in the Fayḍa Tijāniyya movement who embed neoliberal notions such as ‘development’ and individual entrepreneurial initiative into mystical notions of selfhood, agency and moral order. Such charismatic disciples seem to approach discipleship in liberal fashion, pursuing an individualized mission in contrast to the classic Sufi disciple who passively follows instructions from the shaykh. However, these disciples defy reduction to individual, neoliberal subjectivity, subsuming their agency under a larger spiritual entity responsible for revealing and realizing their mission. This article asks whether such hybridities may be intrinsic to neoliberal subjecthood, which entails being shaped by neoliberal power and knowledge while domesticating them to other ends, rather than being exceptions that emerge on the still-enchanted edges of neoliberalism.


Peu après qu'elle ait rejoint en 2005 le mouvement islamique soufi Fayḍa Tijāniyya, Rokhaya Thiam, une sage-femme, a pris rapidement conscience de sa mission divine de fonder l'Association Mame Astou Diankha. Cette organisation fournit des services médicaux gratuits aux nécessiteux et organise des projets de développement économique pour les femmes. Rokhaya Thiam exemplifie une tendance plus générale de sujets religieux « hybrides » au sein du mouvement Fayḍa Tijāniyya qui intègrent des notions néolibérales comme le « développement » et l'entrepreneuriat individuel dans des notions mystiques d'individualité, d'action et d'ordre moral. Ces disciples charismatiques semblent aborder leur statut de disciple de façon libérale, en poursuivant une mission individualisée en rupture avec le disciple soufi classique qui suit passivement les instructions du cheikh. En revanche, on ne peut pas réduire ces disciples à une subjectivité néolibérale individuelle car ils inscrivent leur action sous une entité spirituelle plus vaste qui a la charge de révéler et de réaliser leur mission. Cet article pose la question de savoir si ces hybridités peuvent être intrinsèques au statut de sujet néolibéral qui implique d’être façonné par un pouvoir et un savoir néolibéraux tout en les apprivoisant à d'autres fins, plutôt que de constituer des exceptions émergeant à la marge enchantée du néolibéralisme.

Missions and miracles
Africa , Volume 87 , Issue 4 , November 2017 , pp. 832 - 852
Copyright © International African Institute 2017 

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